Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Elizabeth White, Ed Featherston, John Katrick, Liz McMillan, Maria C. Horton

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, Cloud Security

@CloudExpo: Article

Software as a Service (SaaS), Security and Risk Management: Part 1

A SaaS Security roadmap

As cloud computing technologies and offerings mature and evolve in its services to customers, one common consumer use will be that of the Software as a Service (SaaS) model.

My earlier articles have touched on the various models, risks, security and forensics at several levels. There is also a plethora of resources available now that end users can educate themselves with that are freely available online.

This article will focus on aspects of security that impact the SaaS environment as developed, presented or augmented by me for several Cloud Computing projects.

Before we proceed in the subject matter, a brief clarification of what I refer to as the cloud follows. Keep in mind that this term "cloud computing" is now being used to describe a broad range of services to include product descriptors that sits outside the common definition of the cloud.

For ease of reference I will refer to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) [1] definition of which the following is a part. "Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction."

Over the years since the concept of Cloud Computing evolved we have seen an accepted concept of the "Cloud Computing Stack", with its three distinct categories: Software as a Service, Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service; where the IaaS Is the platform upon which PaaS rests and which is turn has SaaS rests moving up from IaaS to SaaS.

It is important to keep this basic stack in mind as the building blocks of the Cloud Computing system and not get distracted by all the "as a Service" spring up across markets as we proceed with this article.

As we move more and more services into the Cloud ecosystem, there will always be concerns regarding security. However a prescriptive combination of both preventive and detective controls at those data centers housing the IaaS ecosystem is on the path to security compliance and event mitigation. These controls, as a step toward better cloud computing security should be assessed and assured to meet industry tested security controls, as well as regulatory and policy requirements. The same format can be modified and applied up the stack to the PaaS segment.

However it is at the SaaS layer that we can perceive additional challenges with cloud security. One critical area of concern stems from the potential risk that a client's data can be exposed to as it is stored within the storage system of its SaaS provider. This risk can potentially increase in the event of the SaaS provider in turn utilizing the services of a third party IaaS provider.

While effective data center security controls are good for inside a data center, web-services or applications outside this area are a growing target for application layer type attacks. This can lead to the loss of critical to sensitive customer data as well as intellectual property and other corporate data.

A challenge for the IT security professional here is how to implement a level of protection that meets IT Security control requirements as well as ensures compliance with information security regulations, E.g. PCI-DSS in the case of transactions via web services.

In both the traditional environments and cloud services infrastructure environments, we have firewalls tweaked and configured with rulebase automation as a best practice. However in the dynamic cloud environment I believe that having to manage firewall signatures for example, amongst other issues could be challenging and counter-productive.

Essentially we would need to implement security in a layered approach which should include the network, servers, databases and coding, augmented by a system that should have a defined security process based on the SaaS environment and its functionality. This should be an additive measure to augment other monitoring and logging systems deployed to secure this environment.

This system should also have the ability to implement tools that will be able to dynamically learn the behavior of an application supported by an automated mechanism, thus removing the need for signatures in the case of firewall systems as mentioned earlier.

Within the SaaS environment we need to ensure adequate security in input validation by SaaS end users, effective user authentication and authorization, proper data segregation with security encapsulation for data in motion using SSL (3.0 or above) or TLS (1.0 above), effective software patching policies and procedures by the SaaS provider working with its software vendors as well as a key generation strategy.

(While SSL/TLS is encryption for data in motion between a Web Server and a browser is a good practice, administrators should disable weak algorithms and ciphers residing on the Web Server).

There must also be assurance for uptime or availability that is formalized in a Service Level Agreement (SLA). Impact on environments supporting the SaaS ecosystem can be attacks impacting Network Security as well as the process for Backup and Recovery.

Researchers Bhadauria and Sanyal [1] stated "Two types of servers are used by SaaS: the Main Consistence Server (MCS) and Domain Consistence Server (DCS). Cache coherence is achieved by the cooperation between MCS and DCS. In SaaS, if the MCS is damaged, or compromised, the control over the cloud environment is lost. Hence securing the MCS is of great importance."

Another concern within this ecosystem is that of cross site scripting attacks that targets Asynchronous JavaScript and XML- AJAX [2].A best practice here would be to have a policy that ensures that all calls are verified with the Web Server and Service to ensure proper authentication and authorization before allowing the request.

Moving away a bit from the technology of security in this environment, Cloud Computing and SaaS on a whole was in its infancy and in some circles denounced as a viable IT service (no names called here, but a tech company leader specializing in databases and now cloud products comes to mind).

In terms of regulations that impact web services and by extension SaaS, we can reference the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) [3] passed in 1999, Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) in 2002 [4], and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule and Security Rule of 2003[5]. All three of these regulations, although important in their relative environments (e.g. Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Intellectual Property systems (IPS) and Human Resources Systems), were not crafted to include elements of a SaaS environment then.

As a result there needs to be finite and focused addendums or improvement to these acts as was in the case of SAS 70 to SSAE 16 to meet this technological evolution.

Of importance is that, despite the security measures and attestations provided by a SaaS provider to assure a client of their security controls or compensating controls and compliance processes in place to meet regulatory and security standards; it is still the responsibility of a data owner to maintain industry regulated requirements to comply with confidentiality, integrity, non-repudiation and security control over sensitive to critical information.

So the challenge here is to ensure that a cloud client requirement (Security Policy, Strategy, Data Provenance, Operational and End-User Security) is part of the discussion with the cloud provider and most if not all requirements mirror.

The designation of data classification is part of another topic and should be the influenced by the result of risk impact and gap analysis.

As a closing point the value of vulnerability assessments and penetration tests within the SaaS environment is an important tool for an independent set of eyes to present information that a potential attacker will find and use against the SaaS. This is not only related to technology as is well known due to the rise of social engineering.

References

[1] A Survey on Security Issues in Cloud Computing www.ijcaonline.org › Archives › Volume 47 › Number 18, Rohit Bhadauria; Sugata Sanyal, 2012

[2] Jesse James Garrett (18 February 2005). "Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications". AdaptivePath.com.

[3] http://business.ftc.gov/privacy-and-security/gramm-leach-bliley-act

[4] http://www.sec.gov/info/smallbus/404guide/intro.shtml

[5] http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/

More Stories By Jon Shende

Jon RG Shende is an executive with over 18 years of industry experience. He commenced his career, in the medical arena, then moved into the Oil and Gas environment where he was introduced to SCADA and network technologies,also becoming certified in Industrial Pump and Valve repairs. Jon gained global experience over his career working within several verticals to include pharma, medical sales and marketing services as well as within the technology services environment, eventually becoming the youngest VP of an international enterprise. He is a graduate of the University of Oxford, holds a Masters certificate in Business Administration, as well as an MSc in IT Security, specializing in Computer Crime and Forensics with a thesis on security in the Cloud. Jon, well versed with the technology startup and mid sized venture ecosystems, has contributed at the C and Senior Director level for former clients. As an IT Security Executive, Jon has experience with Virtualization,Strategy, Governance,Risk Management, Continuity and Compliance. He was an early adopter of web-services, web-based tools and successfully beta tested a remote assistance and support software for a major telecom. Within the realm of sales, marketing and business development, Jon earned commendations for turnaround strategies within the services and pharma industry. For one pharma contract he was responsibe for bringing low performing districts up to number 1 rankings for consecutive quarters; as well as outperforming quotas from 125% up to 314%. Part of this was achieved by working closely with sales and marketing teams to ensure message and product placement were on point. Professionally he is a Fellow of the BCS Chartered Institute for IT, an HITRUST Certified CSF Practitioner and holds the CITP and CRISC certifications.Jon Shende currently works as a Senior Director for a CSP. A recognised thought Leader, Jon has been invited to speak for the SANs Institute, has spoken at Cloud Expo in New York as well as sat on a panel at Cloud Expo Santa Clara, and has been an Ernst and Young CPE conference speaker. His personal blog is located at http://jonshende.blogspot.com/view/magazine "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit."

@ThingsExpo Stories
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader Sergey Grebnov provided an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
DXWorldEXPO LLC, the producer of the world's most influential technology conferences and trade shows has announced the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO "Early Bird Registration" is now open. Register for Full Conference "Gold Pass" ▸ Here (Expo Hall ▸ Here)
Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a technology juggernaut that has disrupted multiple markets and industries and touches many aspects of our lives. It is a relentless technology and business model innovator driving disruption throughout numerous ecosystems. Amazon’s AWS revenues alone are approaching $16B a year making it one of the largest IT companies in the world. With dominant offerings in Cloud, IoT, eCommerce, Big Data, AI, Digital Assista...
Recently, REAN Cloud built a digital concierge for a North Carolina hospital that had observed that most patient call button questions were repetitive. In addition, the paper-based process used to measure patient health metrics was laborious, not in real-time and sometimes error-prone. In their session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sean Finnerty, Executive Director, Practice Lead, Health Care & Life Science at REAN Cloud, and Dr. S.P.T. Krishnan, Principal Architect at REAN Cloud, discussed how they built...
As ridesharing competitors and enhanced services increase, notable changes are occurring in the transportation model. Despite the cost-effective means and flexibility of ridesharing, both drivers and users will need to be aware of the connected environment and how it will impact the ridesharing experience. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Timothy Evavold, Executive Director Automotive at Covisint, discussed key challenges and solutions to powering a ride sharing and/or multimodal model in the age ...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Detecting internal user threats in the Big Data eco-system is challenging and cumbersome. Many organizations monitor internal usage of the Big Data eco-system using a set of alerts. This is not a scalable process given the increase in the number of alerts with the accelerating growth in data volume and user base. Organizations are increasingly leveraging machine learning to monitor only those data elements that are sensitive and critical, autonomously establish monitoring policies, and to detect...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Robert Cohen, an economist and senior fellow at the Economic Strategy Institute, presented the findings of a series of six detailed case studies of how large corporations are implementing IoT. The session explored how IoT has improved their economic performance, had major impacts on business models and resulted in impressive ROIs. The companies covered span manufacturing and services firms. He also explored servicification, how manufacturing firms shift from se...
IoT solutions exploit operational data generated by Internet-connected smart “things” for the purpose of gaining operational insight and producing “better outcomes” (for example, create new business models, eliminate unscheduled maintenance, etc.). The explosive proliferation of IoT solutions will result in an exponential growth in the volume of IoT data, precipitating significant Information Governance issues: who owns the IoT data, what are the rights/duties of IoT solutions adopters towards t...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settl...
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, examined the regulations and provided insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence arou...
Organizations planning enterprise data center consolidation and modernization projects are faced with a challenging, costly reality. Requirements to deploy modern, cloud-native applications simultaneously with traditional client/server applications are almost impossible to achieve with hardware-centric enterprise infrastructure. Compute and network infrastructure are fast moving down a software-defined path, but storage has been a laggard. Until now.
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...
IoT is at the core or many Digital Transformation initiatives with the goal of re-inventing a company's business model. We all agree that collecting relevant IoT data will result in massive amounts of data needing to be stored. However, with the rapid development of IoT devices and ongoing business model transformation, we are not able to predict the volume and growth of IoT data. And with the lack of IoT history, traditional methods of IT and infrastructure planning based on the past do not app...
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smart...
IoT is rapidly becoming mainstream as more and more investments are made into the platforms and technology. As this movement continues to expand and gain momentum it creates a massive wall of noise that can be difficult to sift through. Unfortunately, this inevitably makes IoT less approachable for people to get started with and can hamper efforts to integrate this key technology into your own portfolio. There are so many connected products already in place today with many hundreds more on the h...